You understand the basics of process controls, and you’re ready to start applying them in your own business! (If not? Skip back to the first article in this series and you’ll be up to speed in no time.)
Anyway, your next question is probably going to be,
Where can I actually buy (source) these process controls?
And because they’re sold by business-to-business (B2B) companies – or maybe just because manufacturing is a little bit of an older industry – you’re not always going to simply order the devices online or walk into a store to buy them.
As with most things these days, your research probably will start online. And sometimes you will be able to find sufficient product information to figure out what you need, and even go ahead and order online. But frequently your search will turn up a website with only general information about the retailer and the types of products they carry, with a contact form so you can email or call on the phone to talk with a sales rep.
And depending on what you’re looking to buy, they might actually suggest an in-person meeting.
One other note: since these are B2B companies, you might have to wait until business hours to get a response. So try to avoid doing this at the last minute!
Talking with the sales rep by phone or email, or in person, will often get you the information you need. But sometimes instead you’re going to want to request…
A paper catalog
Yes, sometimes even if detailed product information isn’t uploaded to a company’s website, they’ll have it in print form. Then you can compare all the options while looking at everything printed out in detail, and call or email when you’re ready to place your order.
But even print information doesn’t always tell you quite as much as you need to know – especially if the thing you’re considering buying is expensive or complex. So sometimes it can be good to attend…
An industry trade show
You probably won’t actually buy something at the show and be able to take it home that day. But trade shows can be a great place for seeing live demonstrations of the products available, asking questions of the reps, and also for finding out about companies that your initial web search might have missed.
If you see something you’re interested in following up on, normally you take the sales rep’s business card and/or some product brochures, and contact them when you’re ready to order. (Etiquette says you should try to order from the same rep that you talked to at the show since they usually get paid on commission.)
By the way – there are plenty of other benefits to attending an industry trade show, such as networking and keeping up with what’s going on in your industry. For more on that topic, check out this report of our Zattatat field trip back in 2019.
So to summarize: internet searches, email and phone calls, printed information, meeting in person, and trade shows are all going to be important tools when you’re sourcing process controls.
But also note that, particularly if your product is something new that your company invented itself, you won’t know for sure what’s going to happen until you get the devices back to your production area and test everything out.
If you’re convinced that it’s time to implement some process controls in your own business, take this as a roadmap. Get out there and find out what products are available for your specific needs – and don’t be surprised if it involves a little more old-style business communication than you may be used to! Come back next time to read the third part of Process Controls for maker businesses!
Ps. As you may already know, this sourcing advice applies not only to process control devices. But to all sorts of things you’ll be buying as a business owner. We just felt that this was as good a time as any to cover it 🙂